Topophilia

I am neither the first nor the last person to love stone. Pygmalion, who shunned the flaws of the women he met, set out to create a sculpture that was so inimitable that he couldn’t help but shower her with unadulterated adoration even before benevolent Aphrodite brought stone to life.  The statue appeared to glow …

Look

Carrie Fisher, George Michael, Alan Rickman, Prince, David Bowe, Harper Lee . . . they are all gone.  2016 ended with a collective human sigh and a GoFundMe drive to keep Betty White alive because humanity had had enough. But what about John Berger who died on January 2? It seems like 2017 took the …

Qualis Artifex Pereo

Nero fiddled while Rome burned.  He either played his lyre sadistically while the city turned to ash, or he “fiddled around” doing nothing of consequence.  Maybe he was just apathetic? Overwhelmed?  Whatever his rationale, history does not remember him kindly.  Rome burned for almost a week in 64 AD, the Christians were blamed and Nero …

Se mai continga

It was the dead of winter in that drafty old Florentine palazzo when my Italian literature professor stood up with explicit force in class.  Stooped like a leafless elm, I could see his breath spouting the poetic pain of exile in a language far more awesome than my own.  The epic swan song of a …

Indignitas

As I set out to make my way from Rome’s infamous armpit of Termini Station to the more gracious Campo de’ Fiore, I found that the location of the square was all but obliterated by a deep faded crease in my once trusty old paper map.  The good thing about the city of Rome is …

Biblioteca Nazionale

A place that you love can become a dear old friend.  The relationship matures over time and, when you are apart, the absence is never far from your mind.  I first entered the Biblioteca Nazionale with a level of unsurpassed and irrational fear.  I was a 25 year old Ph.D. student, but I stood like …

Porca Miseria

You know that you are in Italy on election day when it is punctuated by finding the perfect winter artichokes.  Upon proudly presenting their photo as a still-life on Instagram, I noted slyly that I would rather talk about carciofi.  It had been a long election cycle and, as a historian, I was weary of …

Castagna

I once bought chestnuts in The States.  Overpriced little piles of those that had been rejected by the Italians had made their way begrudgingly to Whole Foods.  Their armor was seemingly impenetrable.  They were as invincible as an armadillo (no matter how many videos on YouTube seemed to suggest otherwise).  They offered a few bitter …

Old Bones

If there is nothing like the smell of napalm in the morning, then there is nothing like the smell of boggy earth being exposed in Florence after a nice long siesta.  The whole street smells like trouble. One unremarkable afternoon, three nondescript men appeared to set up a few seemingly benign detour signs with a …

Piccolo Mondo

In Disney World the “It’s a Small World” ride has been causing nightmares with its grade A creepy animatronics since the 1970s.  I was the consummate eye roller.  Was Pollyanna on deck when they designed this kum bay ya-esque view of global relationships?  To Disney’s credit, it is in Fantasy Land.  Well, these days just …